When is a groomed fifteen year old girl not a groomed fifteen year old?

21 Feb 2019
Question. When is a groomed fifteen year old girl not a groomed fifteen year old? Answer. When she is a Bengali heritage fifteen year old who happens to have been groomed to embrace the ISIS a death cult. 

The tabloid press and right wing commentators have fallen over themselves to abuse Bengali heritage Shamima Begum. She is a British teenager who fled her home in Bethnal Green, aged 15, with two school friends to join Isis in Syria. They caused a sensation at the time. The CCTV images of the three girls were featured in every newspaper and media outlet. One of the three friends is now dead, the other is still with ISIS. But Shamima has surfaced in a refugee camp asking, via interviews with journalists, to go back to her family in Bethnal Green. 

She is now nineteen. And anyone seeing this sad teenager on the television, mouthing her ISIS “lines to take” will see a groomed and abused young women. She has seen unimaginable horrors. Furthermore two of her children have died and she nurses a third in her arms, terrified this one will also die. Anyone can see that she has been groomed. Anyone that is, apart from tabloid newspaper editors and our Home Secretary, Sajid Javid. As far as the tabloid press is concerned, their hostility is a little surprising. You might think society had got past blaming groomed young teenagers for their fate after the big child sex exploitation scandals in towns like Rotherham. But Shamima is being treated as cruelly and dismissively as those other young victims originally were. 

However the tabloid editors are just selling newspapers. Home Secretary, Sajid Javid is responsible for the rule of law. And his attitude to the law in Shamima’s case is deeply troubling. International law is clear. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: “Everyone has a right to a nationality. No-one shall be arbitrarily deprived of their nationality” On Monday of this week Sajid Javid seemed to accept this. He told the House of Commons “We must of course observe international law. And we cannot strip someone of their British nationality if doing so would leave them stateless” But by Wednesday, after a barrage of media and commentary hostile to Shamima, he appeared to do a u-turn and announced that he is stripping her of her British nationality.

It is claimed that he can do that because she is entitled to Bangladeshi nationality by descent, and so will not be left stateless. The trouble is she has never been to Bangladesh, does not hold a Bangladeshi passport, and the Bangladeshi government is quite firm that they will not be giving her one. Furthermore the Home Office last year lost two cases where it tried to strip people of British nationality on the basis that they were entitled to Bangladeshi citizenship by descent. This case will also ultimately be decided by the courts. So the Home Secretary has effectively left Shamima stateless, contrary to international law. In the meantime, Shamima is trapped in a refugee camp in Syria hoping her third baby won’t die like the others. 

There are plenty of good reasons to allow Shamima to return home. She could be questioned on how she was groomed. She is potentially an important source of information about ISIS and their recruiters. And she could be interrogated more generally and, if appropriate, put on trial. This is certainly the view of the President of the United States. Donald Trump has said “The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back the over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial” Stripping Shamima of her nationality in, what appears to be, a wholly arbitrary fashion solves

The suspicion has to be that Sajid Javid has stripped her of her nationality to appear tough in the eyes of the right wing media and his own party members. He must believe this can only help him in the event of any forthcoming Tory leadership election. And he must be gambling that by the time the court proceedings are finished any leadership election is long over. 

Question. When can a desperate groomed teenager, with a week old baby, be left thousands of miles from home without any help?

Answer. When it interferes with the leadership ambitions of Sajid Javid


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